Implementing technology projects can be a somewhat frustrating and unpredictable experience for many companies. There is, however, a straightforward set of best practices to follow to increase your probability for successful implementation. I will discuss these best practices and encourage you to embrace them within your organization. 

Select the right technology solution for a project using an objective assessment process. 
• But don’t immediately assume that technology is the answer! Changes in business processes can be very impactful and bring about desired changes in an extremely cost effective manner. And don’t overlook the possibility that your existing solution might be the right one, but your team hasn’t had proper training on either the processes or use of the existing tools.
• Avoid the trap of implementing a pre-selected tool. Evaluating and selecting the best tool for the job at hand is the only way to ensure success. If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail! 
• And please gently inform your executive management team that most advertisements and articles in the airline magazines typically won’t work in your company! 
• Be deliberate and thorough in your evaluation. Prepare an RFI (request for Information) and/or RFP (Request for Proposal) to gather as much information as possible about the products offered to address the task at hand. And be sure to prepare your RFP evaluation criteria before you distribute the RFP; in this way you will help eliminate bias from the evaluation process. Meet with all suppliers in the space and ask questions about their technology roadmap and lifecycle planning for your platform; this will help ensure you select a platform with a long and useful life for your application.
• Don’t forget your end user during the selection process. They will be using the tools to do their job and will be a great source of information regarding ergonomics and useability. Ignore their input at your own peril! 

An effective Governance and Oversight process must be in place to help ensure success.
• Governance doesn’t have to be a four letter word! Properly structured and executed, Governance and Oversight processes prioritize and fund critical initiatives. These same processes also help kill projects that aren’t delivering expected benefits, freeing resources for other initiatives.
• The Governance Team should be populated by the key executives of the company. The CIO typically chairs the team (though not a hard requirement) since IT usually is blamed for the delays in projects! The team should also include the CEO/President, COO, CHRO, CMO, CSO, SVPs of Engineering, etc. This team should meet quarterly to review portfolio projects and approve resources/funding.
• Oversight teams typically come in two flavors. A team made up of VP level representatives of all business and staff functions typically review all major projects to ensure they are/remain on track. They enforce a Phase Gate process to keep projects on track, continue to fund and allow advancement through gates for those projects on track and kill those projects that don’t meet targets or expectations, reallocate resources as appropriate. 
• Key executives and stakeholders for a particular multi-project Program Initiative perform the same function, but typically for a group of related projects that support a common strategic initiative. Multi-Project Program Oversight Teams should also meet monthly to review deliverables of key projects within the program, mitigate risk appropriately and champion the initiative to Governance teams and help secure resources when required.

Successful project teams must include members of all affected stakeholder groups
• Everyone gets the basic team members right: IT (Applications Development, Technical Architecture, Database, Communications, Help Desk, etc.); Business process owners like Engineering, Safety, Maintenance, HR, Customer Service (Core Team); Support functions like Marketing, Sales, FP&A, Purchasing, Legal, Audit (yes Audit!) (Extended Team)
• Most forget the real End User! This group includes Field/Line Operations Management, Front line production workers/laborer and the Clerical workforce
• Business Process Owners are used to representing the End User. Groups like Planning & Engineering groups are common proxies for operations. Other business process owners may overlap (e.g., Maintenance, Safety are also proxies for ops). Unfortunately these Proxies aren’t always close enough to the work being performed. Always have front line employees as part of the team, even as extended team members. Let these front line employees provide input on things like ergonomics, usability, etc. And make sure they also review and validate any proposed business process changes 
• Institute appropriate levels of control and review. Hold regular meetings at an appropriate interval (weekly, bi-monthly). And remember that simple but effective status reporting and project tracking works; you don’t need complex reporting and tracking. Include next level of management on a regular interval (monthly if core team meets weekly). Visibility and Communication are good things that keep projects on track and increase likelihood of success.

These best practices are well understood and embraced
• Identifying and involving key stakeholders. Not just the business areas, but the true end users. And don’t forget operations management. Make the project initiatives “theirs” not “yours”
• Work diligently on defining requirements. The better and more detailed the requirements definition, the higher the probability for success. Review, review again and then re-review and get buy-in from all stakeholders. 
• “Chunk” your projects whenever possible. Break the project up into meaningful but manageable phases. 
• Follow a defined and accepted design/development lifecycle methodology. Many exist such as SDLC (Systems Development Life Cycle). Ensure that all core and extended team members (and stakeholders) agree on phase promotion. 
• Utilize accepted Project Management Practices. Follow work break down structure, identify and sequence tasks and milestones observing predecessor/successor relationships. Baseline the project timeline, resources, deliverables and manage to the plan. Publish regular reports with crisp assessments of status, risks, mitigation strategies and timelines. Publish agendas prior to, and minutes after each team meeting, with action items and accountabilities. Use a common repository for all project documentation (SharePoint, etc.)

A few other best practices that aren’t as well known or utilized
• Stakeholders are your customers and evaluators. You must over-communicate the activities, status, challenges and successes, listen to their input and be ready to make changes. 
• Suppliers are a key extension of your project team. As such, they should be required to attend every core team meeting and complete any assigned action items. Supplier Sales and PS/Engineering Management should attend the oversight meetings (monthly). Ensure that Supplier Executive level contacts meet bi-monthly or quarterly with their Stakeholder counterparts. 
• Cultivate a culture of transparency. Unlike birthdays and holidays, surprises on projects are a BAD thing. Bad news is not like fine wine or exotic cheese; it doesn’t get better with age! The sooner problems are identified and surfaced, the more time and more options exist to mitigate the problems. This includes your suppliers; they must surface any errors or delays in design, supply chain, testing, manufacturing, etc.
• Apply the Carpenter’s Principle" “Measure Twice, Cut Once.” Revisit key “GO” decisions , validate facts used in the decision, but stay focused and follow the plan – don’t question and reconsider every task and milestone

When most technology initiatives fail, it’s not because of inferior hardware, software or business processes. It’s because there was no plan to manage the change throughout the organization
• Adopt an Organizational Change Management (OCM) Methodology. The methodology should follow/map to the SDLC used by the project team. 
• During project Definition Phase, perform a readiness assessment, conduct focus groups as appropriate with key stakeholders.
• During project Planning Phase, define a change team to work with core project team in support of OCM plan, define and build the communication training plan, define Success & Accuracy (S&A) Metrics for key program/project phases, obtain governance approval for the OCM plan (executive sponsors). 
• During project Development Phase, identify and/or create the appropriate communications vehicles, build training materials (CBT, instructor lead, manuals/presentations, job aids), obtain appropriate business area and legal approvals, develop & deliver training plans and define long term support strategy and transition requirements. 
• During project Launch Phase, deliver project communications, support strategy, deliver training, collect and analyze S&A metrics as appropriate and transition project into long-term support.
• Post-launch, ensure long term training plans are in place.
• Be mindful of other activities taking place within your organization and proactively plan for multiple programs being released simultaneously. Prepare high level assessment of OCM requirements and impact for all concurrent initiatives, determine any overlap of key initiatives on stakeholder groups and prioritize initiatives and develop a comprehensive release schedule that is the best fit for your stakeholders. 

Roman Hlutkowsky, is the Founder and Principal at The Hlutkowsky Group, a consultancy that specializes in Business Process, Technology & Automation, and Enterprise Transformation. He has more than 27 years of experience in the transportation industry, mostly focused on applying technology to improve operations. Roman and his team take great pride in being on the cutting edge of emerging technologies and integrating it in ways that are beneficial to their customers.